Saturday, 29 September 2012

every living thing has the right to a name

I remember long ago reading with my primary school classes a set of United Nations books about the Rights of the Child. One that always caused a great deal of discussion was article 7, that a child has a right to a name. Children who had never suffered the indignity of being known as a number were astonished that such a right needed to be explicitly stated.

I've been thinking of that right, since I caught a snippet of an interview  by Phillip Adams on Late Night Live of Cormac Cullinan, an environmental lawyer. Here are the program notes:

Cormac Cullinan has practised, taught and written about environmental law and policy since 1992. He says that there is a fundamentally misconceived belief that humans are separate from and superior to nature, and that the single and most important thing to consider for our survival is how to re-think our understanding of law and governance so that we can use it to govern humans in a way that will benefit the whole Earth community, and thereby ourselves.  

One thing that struck me - in the short section of the program I heard - was the idea that by turning living things into objects to be owned, we divorce ourselves from our interdependence with them. Think slavery.

This made me think about my garden. I walked around it with a gardener recently, hoping she would agree to work with me to help me maintain it. (She will.) She was quite taken with the fact that I could tell her the history of every plant in our yard. I remember the year the garrya elliptica was planted, the agonis flexuosa, the poor dwarfed variegated pittosporum struggling for life under the drip line of the tallest eucalypt for ten kilometres around. (All 1963). 

I remember the planting of every shrub, most herbs and even the blades of grass. I feel a connection with them, I sigh for them in the heat of summer drought and I vicariously drink the life-giving raindrops that fall on them in a wet season.

Now I've decided to name them, seeing we humans relate best to living creatures with an individual name. Here's a quote from a psychology article with a brief overview of this tendency, anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism carries many important implications. For example, thinking of a nonhuman entity in human ways renders it worthy of moral care and consideration. 

Okay, so here's my first name:

Meet Garry.

Garry was born in Melbourne, Australia, far from his ancestral homeland in the United States. He had many good years growing up in the sixties, seventies and even eighties, but fell into bad health in the nineties and the early years of the twentieth century, as drought settled upon his adoptive family. With good rains in the first years of the second decade of the twentieth century, he has taken on a new lease of life.


proud womon said...

i like your way of thinking womon!!

parlance said...

proud womon, I think you would find the work of Cullinan interesting, if you haven't read about him already.